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Human Rights Issues.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 11 March 2010

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Questions (148)

Lucinda Creighton


147 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will raise the matter of the detention of a person (details supplied) with the Chinese Government. [12096/10]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

As stated in the House on 9 February last, in reply to a Parliamentary Question relating to the same case, I am deeply concerned about the disappearance of Mr. Gao Zhisheng, a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer. I note with deep concern that Mr. Gao Zhisheng has now been missing for over a year from his home in Shaanxi province and that on the two occasions on which he has been sighted since that time, the last of which was June 2009, he was accompanied by police officers. Since June, it has not been possible for either members of his family or his professional colleagues to make contact with him.

Human rights issues in China, including individual cases, are regularly discussed on a bilateral basis with the Chinese Government, both in Beijing and in Dublin. The Government continues to stress at such meetings the great importance attached by Ireland to human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, and to urge the Chinese authorities to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A broad-ranging EU-China human rights dialogue enables the EU to engage with China on such issues as freedom of expression, the death penalty, the independence of the judiciary, prison conditions, freedom of religion and minority rights. It also provides an opportunity for the EU to raise individual cases, such as that of Mr. Gao.

In the period since the disappearance of Mr. Gao, the EU has repeatedly called on the Chinese authorities to reveal his whereabouts. His case has been raised during the last two meetings of the EU-China Human Rights dialogue, held in Prague on 14 May 2009 and in Beijing on 20 November 2009 respectively. We have called on the Chinese authorities to give Mr. Gao access to legal advice and to allow him to maintain contact with his family. We have urged them to clarify without delay his present situation and to open a fully independent and transparent investigation into his disappearance.

Since I last referred to this case in the House on 9 February, there have been press reports, based on information supplied by the Chinese Government, that Mr. Gao has been working in the city of Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and that he has been in contact with his wife in the US and relatives in China. However, sources close to Mr. Gao's family have advised that Mr. Gao's wife has not yet had contact with her husband. Mr. Gao's current location and physical condition, therefore, remain unconfirmed, a year after contact with him was first lost. I am very concerned about this case and have instructed that it be raised bilaterally with the Chinese authorities.